Evangelical Lutheran Church Follows Episcopal Church in Gadarene Slide to OblivionAs in the Episcopal Church there is still and always will be a faithful remnant in the ELCA
Five Congregations leave ELCA every week. Lutheran Congregations that leave can keep properties
By Robert Luther
Special to Virtueonline
March 2, 2012
The ecclesiastical realignment that has been going on in North America over the last decade has not been confined to Anglicanism.
Since August, 2009, when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Churchwide Assembly voted to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize same gender unions and accept those who have entered into such unions to serve as rostered leaders (pastors, deacons, chaplains, etc.), the resulting schism in the ELCA has been devastating.
The ELCA was formed in 1987 by a merger of three Lutheran denominations that combined to form one ecclesiastical adjudicatory that promptly went down the same revisionist path as the Episcopal Church, sadly but predictably bringing the same results. Membership started a slow decline so that by 2008 the ELCA had lost over 12 percent of its membership and 737 congregations, all this while the population of the United States was booming.
Then in 2009 things got worse. While the befuddled revisionists celebrated their muddled gospel of inclusion, affirmation and social justice, many of the faithful shook the dust off their feet and gathered in Columbus, Ohio a year later to start a new Lutheran denomination called the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). As Edmund Burke wrote, "There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue."
Others left for Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) or the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC). LCMC has 772 member congregations, with 683 of those in the US; however, some of these congregations also maintain membership in the ELCA.
The result has been a schism that has been much faster and deeper than that in the Episcopal Church. Why is that so? because ELCA congregations can disaffiliate from the ELCA and keep their property. It takes two, two thirds majority congregational votes ninety days apart and they can leave with their property and join the Lutheran denomination of their choice.
No lawsuits, no clergy deposed, no pack of wolves trying to take property from those who paid for it and for which the synod would have no use; an altogether civilized and gracious way to treat those leaving.
In the 2009 - 2010 period alone the ELCA lost nearly 8 percent of its membership and 388 congregations, with most of these congregations moving to other jurisdictions and some closing.
It's also likely that additional thousands of church members quietly left their liberal congregations without a word, in typical Lutheran humility, but are still being counted as members on the rolls. Many of these folks headed straight for the local Lutheran Church Missouri Synod congregation, where the Holy Scriptures are still faithfully preached and taught.
2011 numbers are not yet available but they will be just as bad. Over the last year an average of 5 congregations each week have been leaving the ELCA to join the North American Lutheran Church, and after only a year and a half well over 300 congregations have taken this step.
One would think that the leadership of the ELCA would have looked at what happened to the Episcopal Church and decided there is no way they could all join hands, drink the same Kool-Aid and then jump off the same cliff into oblivion, but amazingly and regrettably that was not the case. This writer will leave it to the psychologists and other deep thinkers among you to try to fathom why.
As in the Episcopal Church, there is still and always will be a faithful remnant in the ELCA but as so many of the faithful have left, this group will have less and less influence, be more and more marginalized and most likely will find their presence more and more difficult; however, the Lord always has a purpose for the faithful and prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness, and some will always feel called to the lonely ministry of the scorned prophet.
May God comfort and strengthen them. One can't help but wonder what the similarities between the Anglican Church of North America and the North American Lutheran Church may lead to. Anglican and Lutheran theology are very similar and there has been a substantial and visible presence of Anglican purple shirts at both convocations of the NALC.
It's also pretty clear that the realignment in North American Protestantism over the last decade has not been along denominational lines but along the lines of those who are orthodox in matters of faith and morals as opposed to those who have adopted the values of a secular and increasingly pagan culture.
This leaves the ACNA and NALC with a lot in common. One thing is very clear: these two churches have a lot more in common with each other than they do with the churches from which they disaffiliated.